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James Alton Goodwin

April 15, 2011
Lake Placid News
KEENE VALLEY — James Alton Goodwin, 101, passed away peacefully April 7 at Adirondack Medical Center of complications of pneumonia.

Born March 8, 1910 in Hartford, Conn., his parents were Howard Goodwin and Charlotte Alton Goodwin.  

His long association with the Adirondacks began when he spent his first three summers at his grandfather Charles Alton’s resort, Undercliff, on Lake Placid. After a few summers in Connecticut, the family returned to the Adirondacks and spent many summers in Keene Valley, starting at Interbrook Lodge on Johns Brook Lane when Jim was 9. By the age of 12, Jim was guiding parties to Mount Marcy — a career that only ended on Saturday, March 26, when he was the guest of honor at the New York State Outdoor Guides Rendezvous luncheon.  

Jim graduated from Kingswood School in Hartford, Conn., in 1928. He then graduated from Williams College in 1932 and went on to receive an M.A. in English from Harvard in 1934. After Harvard, Jim returned to teach at Kingswood (later Kingswood-Oxford) School, teaching there until his retirement in 1975.

During the 1930s, Jim made many trips west to climb in the Canadian Rockies, ascents by which he gained admission to the American Alpine Club. He also continued to climb in the Adirondacks, making the first winter ascent of Mount Colden’s Trap Dike in 1935 and becoming Adirondack 46-R No. 24 in 1940.

In 1941, Jim married Jane Morgan Bacon, daughter of Herbert and Isabel Huntington Bacon. After Pearl Harbor, Jim enlisted in the 10th Mountain Division, where by virtue of his membership in the American Alpine Club he served as a rock climbing instructor, first in Colorado and later at Seneca Rocks, W. Va. Afterwards, he served as a medic during the division’s combat in Italy. Discharged in 1945, Jim returned to teaching at Kingswood School, where he was instrumental in starting a ski team and an outing club.

Jim’s heart, however, was always in the Adirondacks, where he spent most of his summers until moving to Keene Valley permanently in 2002 and living in the cabin he built in 1940. Starting in 2007, he was a resident of the Keene Valley Neighborhood House. During his summers in Keene Valley, he both cut new trails and maintained existing ones while also guiding many aspiring 46-Rs on the peaks.  The new trails he cut include Porter Mountain from Keene Valley (1924), Big Slide from the Brothers (1951), Hedgehog (1953), Ridge Trail to Giant (1955), and the Pyramid Gothics Trail (1966). His long association with the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society, as both director and trail maintainer, led to the new 1998 trail to Rooster Comb being named in his honor.   

Jim’s memberships included the Adirondack 46-Rs, Adirondack Mountain Club, American Alpine Club, and the New York State Outdoor Guides Association. At the time of his death, he was also a Lifetime Honorary Director of the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society, in recognition of his many years of service as both director and president.

He is survived by sons: James Jr. “Tony” and wife Emily Apthorp Goodwin of Keene, and Peter and wife Susan Rohm Goodwin of Wolfeboro, N.H. Nephews: James and Christopher O’Brien of Clifton Park and Troy; grandchildren: Morgan, Robert and Liza Goodwin of Keene and Hunt and John Goodwin of Wolfeboro, N.H.

He was predeceased by Jane, his wife of 50 years, as well as his sisters, Margaret “Peg” O’Brien and Charlotte Craig.  

There will be a memorial service at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 23 at the Keene Valley Congregational Church with a reception to follow.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Kingswood-Oxford School, 170 Kingswood Road, West Hartford, CT 06119 or Keene Valley Neighborhood House, P.O. Box 46, Keene Valley, NY 12943.

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